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Not Just Another Photojournalist

Not Just Another Photojournalist

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Published by Zhuang Wubin
An interview with Taiwanese photojournalist Wang Chih Hong, published on "Grain", October 2004
An interview with Taiwanese photojournalist Wang Chih Hong, published on "Grain", October 2004

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Published by: Zhuang Wubin on Jan 02, 2014
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03/01/2014

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Photojournalist
NOT JUST ANOTHER
Starting out as a photographer for Earth Chinese Geographic Monthly in 1986,Taipei-born Wang Chih Hong is now an explorer, a humanitarian, a writer and the editor-in-chief for the award-winning Rhythms Monthly. What happened along the way? By Zhuang Wubin
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A
 single image is never going to change theworld,” 42-year-old Wang Chih Hong statesin Chinese.For the past decade though, he does seemto be trying to change the world, not throughphotography, but through the humanitarianwork that he has managed to fit into hisschedule wherever he has ventured withhis cameras.“At the end of the day, I’m just trying helpsomeone in need within my capacity andwork,” he replies modestly in English, alanguage he has acquired “on the streets”.English is crucial to his work at RhythmsMonthly, a magazine published by Tzu ChiFoundation, the largest Chinese humanitarianorganization in the world. How else is hegoing to communicate with contributorslike Magnum photographer Abbas, UNsecretary Kofi Annan or former Soviet Unionpresident Mikhail Gorbachev?Bamiyan, 1998His main objective was to deliver one tonof antibiotics and medical supplies toAfghanistan with aid workers from Tzu Chi.But at Bamiyan where two gigantic statuesof Buddha from the 2nd to 5th centurystood, it was the photographer in WangChih Hong who emerged.However, a Chinese photographer walkingaround Bamiyan was a magnet for theclamorous kids. Wherever he pointed hislens, the kids would get into his view,making photography impossible.“Do you need help?” an angelic voice
Top: Buzkashi: Buzkashi is the national sport in Afghanistan. Horse riders race for a headless sheep. The first rider to grab the body, take it to a designated point and return to the starting position becomes the winner.
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asked Wang in English.To his relief, Hazargul Hashini became hisphoto assistant for the day, distracting thekids, acting as his translator and pointingout those people who were willing to bephotographed.Before Wang left, he took a picture of Hashini and 14 other kids. Then, he gavethe child his name-card and asked him tosend him a letter if he needed anything.Returning on the third day to the statues atBamiyan, he had been photographing themonuments for two hours before he noticedHashini running towards him. The childslapped his letter onto Wang’s palm.What’s the haste? Wang wondered.One of the helpers explained: “After 19 yearsof fighting, our postal system has longbecome non-existent.”In his letter, Hashini asked for a dictionaryto be mailed to the person-in-charge at theBamiyan area office for the United NationsHigh Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),so that he could pass it to Hashini whowas studying at Bamiyan Primary Schoolbeside the office.Not a difficult request, Wang thought. Buthe was already in two minds. The Talibanwas slowly but surely winning the battleover Bamiyan against the Northern Alliance.It was time to leave.It was only back in Taipei when he realizedwhat Hashini wanted was a Persian-Englishdictionary, and not a Chinese-English oneWang had assumed.How was he going to find a Persian-Englishdictionary in Taiwan? He managed to locateone via an Afghan friend in America. Notlong after sending out the dictionary,Bamiyan fell to Taliban. The UNHCR lefttown
Left: Waiting Anxiously: Refugees in the Hazrati-Sul-Tan camp in Afghanistan wait anxiously in the snowstorm for the arrival of relief supplies from theTzu Chi Foundation.Top Left-Hand Corner: The Civil Guards of the Gigantic Buddha Statues: The Hazarans have alwaysconsidered themselves as guardians of the statues inBamiyan. They used to place many soliders there to protect the statues. However, they were subsequently defeated by the Taliban.
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